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Mead:State needs 'all of the above' angle on energy

Jun 24, 2012 - By Don Warfield, Staff Writer

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK -- Wyo-ming Gov. Matt Mead took a strong stance in support of his state's mining industry, particularly its coal sector, in a speech to the Wyoming Mining Association's 57th annual convention June 22 at Jackson Lake Lodge.

The convention wrapped up Saturday.

"Global demand for energy is expected to increase by 30 percent by 2040," Mead said.

Rather than pursue a policy of shutting down energy sources such as coal, "We need to seek additional sources of energy while remaining true to those sources that have sustained our country and our state for so long."

The U.S, needs an "all of the above" approach to energy production, he said.

Mead recently led a Wyoming delegation to China, site of the third annual Clean Coal Technology conference. He contrasted the "amazing" scope, speed and technological expertise of China's energy development with the current political climate of attacks on coal in the U.S.

Mead and his delegation visited an industrial project that exemplified China's determination meet its energy needs. The complex will encompass 40 square kilometers, he said. It will develop all sources of energy, including value-added coal products such as synthetic fuels, methanol, coal enhancement and similar sources.

The Chinese are especially interested in Wyoming's coal development and seek to emulate much of what the state has accomplished, Mead said. Its leaders displayed a depth of knowledge about Wyoming energy that outpaced even that of many Wyomingites.

China is using its knowledge to forge ahead in cutting edge energy technology, and its speed is breathtaking. The huge energy complex Mead visited was begun only a little over a year ago, and its core area will be finished by September.

"It's an amazing, amazing feat," Mead said.

And a sobering one.

"In the US and in Wyoming... in my mind, we need to remember that what has made this country great is our competitive edge... I don't like the idea that our nation and this state are falling behind" a country that once trailed us in technology, Mead said. The U.S. must "step up" its efforts to remain on the leading edge of technology.

China is already buying coal from Indonesia and Australia. It is building a rail line from the interior to its largest of population centers that is capable of carrying 60 million tons of coal per year. Nevertheless, China would welcome Wyoming coal, and the state should seize that window of opportunity while it is open, Mead said.

The private sector must play the leading role in developing the export market, Mead said, but state government has a "big role to play." Mead promised that Wyoming government will exercise whatever political clout it can muster to see that coal exports become a reality.

After ticking off an extended list of Wyoming's high rankings for economic indicators, Mead made clear what he believes leads to the state's strength: A strong mining sector, he said, is a characteristic of most states that are strong economically, and Wyoming is no exception.

Echoing one of his past themes, Mead rejected the "either/or" choice between energy development and the environment. The state's industry has proven that it can have "robust production with environmental protection," he said. Contrary to the charges of mining's critics, Mead said, he has found that miners around Wyoming take "great pride in their reclamation."

Mead was also not shy in supporting profits. He quoted his grandfather, the late Gov. Clifford P. Hansen. Hansen's declaration that the profit motive spurs innovation and advancement is as true today was it was when he spoke it in 1963, Mead said. With profits come jobs and economic growth, including all of the amenities.

-- roads, schools and the like -- that we enjoy.

Mead was especially critical of the performance standards being imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on coal-fired power plants. Lawsuits challenging EPA's regulations are under way, he said, because the "unreasonable rules and regulations are taking the profit out of business."

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Mead concluded by thanking Wyoming miners "for all you do" -- meaning not just for generating taxes and revenues and jobs, and for reclamation, but for mining's "remarkable example of what we need to do" in work place safety.

Immediately following Mead's address, WMA, the Wyoming Inspector of Mines and the Mining Associates of Wyoming gave out awards recognizing the industry's exemplary safety performance in 2011.

Ninety-five Wyoming mines and their contractors worked at least 10,000 manhours each with no lost-time accidents last year.

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